A Travel Price Comparison for New Zealand Kaikoura vs. Aoraki Mount Cook for Hiking, Families, Couples, and Food

Should you visit Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

Kaikoura

Kaikoura is a nature-oriented, biologically diverse, and unique town. It's also popular because of the food, beaches, and hiking.

Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook is a breathtaking, world renowned, and scenic mountain. You'll find world class beauty here as well. And you can't forget about the hiking.

Kaikoura and Aoraki Mount Cook: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Popular for food and cuisine
  • Active nightlife
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Fun shopping
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
Pros
  • Good for hiking
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Things to Consider
  • Less popular for food
  • Less family-friendly


Is there more to do in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Tourists will generally find more to do in Kaikoura. Although Kaikoura and Aoraki Mount Cook are both popular with visitors, Kaikoura has more sights, activities, and attractions for travelers. Kaikoura is more popular for its museums, food, nightlife, beaches, and shopping, while Aoraki Mount Cook is known for its hiking and impressive beauty. Kaikoura is popular for its local Sperm Whale population, abundance of marine life, and local crayfish (lobster) recipes. It is also home to its whale watching trips. Aoraki Mount Cook is popular for its glaciers, alpine setting, and being the highest mountain in New Zealand.

How is Kaikoura different from Aoraki Mount Cook?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Let's take a look at the differences and similarities between Aoraki Mount Cook and Kaikoura. Then, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Are the Museums and Historical Sights Better in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is adequate for its historical sights. However, Aoraki Mount Cook does not have museums and landmarks.

While most people don't head to Kaikoura specifically for the museums and attractions, it does offer a few options. There aren't many museums in the area, but it's worth learning more about the region's history with a visit to Kaikoura Museum.

Aoraki Mount Cook does not have museums and landmarks.


Is the Food Better in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook? Which Destination has the Best Restaurants?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is great for its local flavors and cuisine. However, Aoraki Mount Cook is not a good destination for its local cuisine and restaurants.

Kaikoura has a number of nationally recognized food spots and restaurants. Seafood lovers will be in heaven in this town! There are many local, freshly caught favorites such as cod, mussels, and crayfish (which is actually lobster). You'll find plenty of casual eateries, including an authentic American diner.

Aoraki Mount Cook offers some easy restaurants to choose from. There are a few cafes and restaurants in the village, but if you're doing any hiking you should pack your own food.

Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Nightlife?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is a good destination for its evening party scene. However, Aoraki Mount Cook is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.

If you're looking for night time activities Kaikoura has a few options to choose from. This is a small town so the nightlife scene is limited, but there are a few restaurants with bars around town.

Aoraki Mount Cook is not a destination with noteworthy nightlife.

Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Beaches?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is great for the beach. However, Aoraki Mount Cook is not a beach destination.

Many people visit Kaikoura for it's beautiful beaches. There are many black pebble beaches in the area, which are great for wildlife spotting, but not so good for swimming. Gooch's Beach is one of the most popular, and it's sandier than many of the other beaches. South Bay is another popular area to visit.

Aoraki Mount Cook is not a beach destination.


Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Hiking?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook is a world-class destination for the nearby hiking options. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for its hiking trails.

People visit Aoraki Mount Cook specifically for its hiking, as the natural beauty is well-known. There are beginner trails as well as world class routes that bring out expert climbers. As the highest peak in New Zealand, many people come here for the challenge, but if you're looking for a most simple experience, the hiking opportunities are still abundant.

Many visitors explore the nearby hiking trails while visiting Kaikoura. There are many coastal walks in the area that will take you through a variety of landscapes. This is also a great way to see the many diverse types of wildlife throughout the peninsula.

Is the Shopping Better in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is a good destination for its shopping areas. However, Aoraki Mount Cook is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Kaikoura has a variety of shopping areas worth visiting. There are local shops where you can pick up some interesting products that are unique to the area.

Aoraki Mount Cook is not a noteworthy shopping destination.

Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Families?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is an unbeatable place for its kid-friendly activities. Also, Aoraki Mount Cook is not as popular, but is still a nice mountain for its family-friendly activities.

With a huge array of activities for kids, Kaikoura is very family-friendly. Kids who love animals will appreciate all of the wildlife in the area. This is one of the best places in the country to see dolphins, whales, and seals. There are world class whale watching trips as well as opportunities to swim with the dolphins and get close to the seals. There is also kayaking, a coastal train, and even sheep shearing. Minigolf is also a fun activity in the area.

Aoraki Mount Cook is a family-friendly place to visit. There are plenty of short walks that are perfect for little legs. Kids will also enjoy the boat rides on the lakes and the area's superb stargazing.


Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Couples?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Aoraki Mount Cook is a world-class destination for its romantic activities. Also, Kaikoura is not as famous, but is still a good town to visit for couples.

Aoraki Mount Cook makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. Couples will enjoy the stunning glaciers, beautiful walks, and iconic views. Many couples take helicopter rides to fully experience the area. Stargazing and hiking is also high on the list of must-do romantic activities.

Kaikoura makes for a fun place to visit for a couple. The town is all about wildlife, so if whale watching trips, dolphin spotting, and experiencing amazing local wildlife is your thing, then this is your spot! There are also beautiful coastal sights with a dramatic mountain backdrop.

Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is great for backpackers and budget travelers. Also, Aoraki Mount Cook is not as popular, but is still a nice mountain for backpackers.

Plenty of budget travelers and backpackers visit Kaikoura. There are a decent number of hostels in the area and plenty of fun activities that backpackers will enjoy.

Plenty of budget travelers visit Aoraki Mount Cook. While many activities in the area are expensive, the hiking is world class and there are a few hostels and camping opportunities nearby.

Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook Better for Public Transit? Which Is Easier to Get Around Without a Car?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Neither Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook offer decent public transit.

Public transit is limited or non-existant in Kaikoura. The town is very small and there is no real public transit in the area.

Public transit is quite limited in Aoraki Mount Cook. Having a car is essential unless you take a private tour that provides transportation.


Is Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook a more walkable city?

Kaikoura
Aoraki Mount Cook

Kaikoura is a good destination for its ease of walking around. However, Aoraki Mount Cook is not a good destination for its walkability.

Kaikoura is a somewhat walkable town. There are many coastal walks in the area, which is a great way to soak up the beauty and see the wildlife. The town itself is small and most of the accommodation is along Beach Road, so it's relatively easy to reach places on foot.

Aoraki Mount Cook is generally not very walkable. While there are many trails through the region, you really must have a car to access the trail heads and efficiently get around.

For even more information, also check out Is Kaikoura Worth Visiting? and Is Aoraki Mount Cook Worth Visiting?.

Should I spend more time in Aoraki Mount Cook or Kaikoura?

How long in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

It's fun to spend time in either Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook. In our opinion, Kaikoura has more to see and do, so we recommend that you spend more time in Kaikoura than Aoraki Mount Cook. However, 2-4 days is a good amount of time to spend in either destination.

Families should spend more time in Kaikoura than Aoraki Mount Cook. Because of the many family-friendly attractions and fun things to do for kids in Kaikoura, it's a great place to visit with the whole family.

Couples should spend more time in Kaikoura than Aoraki Mount Cook. You'll find plenty of romantic sights and fun activities in Kaikoura that are great for a weekend getaway or a longer couple's trip.

Backpackers and budget travelers should spend more time in Kaikoura than Aoraki Mount Cook if your budget allows for it. With a larger number of budget-friendly sights, good nightlife, and active things to do, anyone traveling on a budget would have a good time in Kaikoura.


  • How many days in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook? Ideal Length of Stay
    Kaikoura 2-4 
    Aoraki Mount Cook 2-4

One day in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

With nightlife and food around the destination of Kaikoura, there's plenty to do. It's also a great beach destination, too. Since there is so much to do in the area, one day is probably not enough for all of it. It offers something for everyone.

The beautiful mountain of Aoraki Mount Cook offers . Many visitors also spend a good bit of time hiking. With so much to do, one day is probably not enough time to see everything. It will give you the chance to have new experiences.

A weekend in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

With food and shopping around the biologically diverse town of Kaikoura, there's plenty to do. Your budget might influence how long you stay. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. This is a popular place to visit for a weekend. With all of its activities, you can easily fill a weekend here.

Aoraki Mount Cook is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. If you have a weekend, this mountain makes for a great vacation. Make sure you spend some time hiking while you're in the area. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Aoraki Mount Cook, a weekend is sufficent for most. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.


Five days in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Travelers enjoy the shopping and nightlife when visiting the nature-oriented destination of Kaikoura. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. It has many unique tourist attractions and fascinating things to do. Five days is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days.

Aoraki Mount Cook is a popular choice for travelers. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. Five days is usually plenty of time to spend here with extra days to spare. With this much time, visitors often visit nearby destinations or take day trips. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

A week in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Kaikoura is a popular choice for travelers. Most people come for the beaches. This town offers a variety of activities to choose from. One week may feel like too much time unless you plan to do a lot of relaxing.

Aoraki Mount Cook is a great place to explore. It's no surprise that hiking is why people visit. Hiking can easily take up a good amount of your time here, too. One week is more than enough time to enjoy everything. Take some day trips to nearby places to fill the extra days. This mountain offers something for everyone.


Which place is cheaper, Aoraki Mount Cook or Kaikoura?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Kaikoura is $141, while the average daily cost in Aoraki Mount Cook is $110. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each destination. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Kaikoura and Aoraki Mount Cook in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Kaikoura $50
    Aoraki Mount Cook $62
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Kaikoura $100
    Aoraki Mount Cook $124
Compare Hotels in Kaikoura and Aoraki Mount Cook

Looking for a hotel in Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Kaikoura


Hotels in Aoraki Mount Cook


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Kaikoura Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Kaikoura $18
    Aoraki Mount Cook $28

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Aoraki Mount Cook

Also for Aoraki Mount Cook, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:

  • Private Transfer from Dunedin City Hotels to Chalmers Cruise Port: $44

Is it cheaper to fly into Kaikoura or Aoraki Mount Cook?

Prices for flights to both Aoraki Mount Cook and Kaikoura change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Kaikoura $39
    Aoraki Mount Cook $28

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Kaikoura $158
    Aoraki Mount Cook $24

Tours and Activities in Kaikoura

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Kaikoura are as follows:

  • Llama Trek (Taster) - Kowhai River Valley and Native Woodland Tour: $75
  • 1-Hour Private Heli-Picnic Mountain top tour in Kaikoura : $247
  • 40-minute Mt Fyffe Summit Heli Tour in Kaikoura : $231
  • Kaikoura Swim with Dolphins Tour from Christchurch: $250
  • Kaikoura Whale Watch Day Tour from Christchurch: $222
  • 1-Hour Whale Watching Helicopter Tour: $651
  • Guided Family Kayaking Adventure: $93
  • Half-Day Wildlife Kayaking Tour: $93
  • Seal-Watching Pedal Kayak Tour: $74
  • Whale Watching Cruise: $102
  • Wildlife Kayaking Tour at Sunset: $93
  • Kaikōura: 45-Minute Whale Watching Helicopter Tour: $465

Tours and Activities in Aoraki Mount Cook

Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Aoraki Mount Cook.

  • Fox Glacier Nature Tour: $57
  • Franz Josef Nature Tour: $57
  • Lake Matheson Nature Tour: $57
  • Half-Day Self-Guided Ride and Wine Bike Tour from Arrowtown: $63
  • Half-Day Guided Sea Kayaking Tour from Anakiwa: $69
  • Mt. Cook to Queenstown Small Group Tour (1-way) : $111
  • From Christchurch: Mount Cook One-Way Discovery Tour: $123
  • Mt Cook to Christchurch via Lake Tekapo Small Group Tour 1 way: $126
  • Mt Cook Small Group Tour from Queenstown with Optional Activities : $158
  • Mt Cook & Hooker Valley Hike Small Group Tour from Queenstown: $158
  • Mount Cook Return Day Tour via Lake Tekapo From Christchurch: $180
  • Gold Hunting Adventures: $234

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Kaikoura -
    Aoraki Mount Cook $21

Sample the Local Flavors in Aoraki Mount Cook

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Aoraki Mount Cook:

  • Classic Central Otago Wine Tasting Experience: $16
  • Pinot Noir Wine Tasting Experience: $29
  • Valli Wine Tasting Experience: $29
  • Wild Irishman Wine Tasting Experience: $48
  • Premium Central Otago Wine Tasting Experience: $48


When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Kaikoura and Aoraki Mount Cook, we can see that Kaikoura is more expensive. And not only is Aoraki Mount Cook much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Aoraki Mount Cook would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Aoraki Mount Cook and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Kaikoura would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Kaikoura than you might in Aoraki Mount Cook.

If you're trying to decide if either of these two destinations are within your price range, also see Is Kaikoura Expensive? and Is Aoraki Mount Cook Expensive?.